Are you sitting on an invisible goldmine and don’t even know it? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re offering many services to many types of clients, and it’s not exactly overflowing your bank account. But somewhere within your suite of services is your main vein, specifically one offering to one market that solves one clear problem with one clear solution—also called a niche.
Maybe you’ve tried to niche your business and it “didn’t work,” and now the word makes you roll your eyes, shake your head, and say it’s a waste of time. I’ll stop you right there—just because it “didn’t work” doesn’t mean it “doesn’t work.” It just means you probably didn’t know how to niche your business the right way. Instead, I’m willing to bet you focused for the sake of focusing and didn’t actually find your true niche. It’s a common challenge, but one you must commit to solving because finding your niche and focusing on it is the only way to be successful in business. I have never seen a profitable small business that didn’t clearly own their niche. So let’s talk about why it’s so challenging and how to solve it: Why Are We Scared to Niche? Niching is scary for most people, and it looks downright pointless when you see a business that doesn’t seem to have a clear target but is totally killing it. First of all, you never know how successful a business is until you’ve looked at their books and how much profit they are taking home.
Second, niching down on a target market is only ONE way to focus your business. If a company is successful but doesn’t seem to have a clear target market, I guarantee it has niched in a different way, probably with very niche offerings for the very niche problems they solve.
Most people hate the idea of limiting their business because they don’t want to be limited themselves. They fear turning away clients and therefore the money they could theoretically make. They are scared that they’ll get bored of doing the same thing or working with the same people. They worry that they are somehow making a lifelong commitment to being a one-trick pony that knows and does nothing more than this one thing. And what if someone else comes along to do that thing better? They’ll be screwed!
If you can relate, you’re approaching it all wrong.
You Are NOT Your Business You want to create a business that brings you joy and happiness and fulfillment, and I support that. But ALL your joy and happiness and fulfillment will not come from your business. If it did, that would be pretty sad for the state of the rest of your life. Your business is one aspect of your life, and it is both there to bring you some fulfillment and to facilitate achieving fulfillment in other areas of your life.
So, if we are operating on the premise that niching is ESSENTIAL to success in your business, and success by my definition means in part that it creates an abundance of profit and time, then niching is essential to creating the abundance of time necessary to enjoy all the OTHER pieces of your life that are fulfilling. Now that we got that out of the way… One objection I hear often, because I mostly work with and advise creatives in their businesses, is that they are creative people with LOTS of interests and LOTS of passions, and they don’t want to deny themselves the opportunity to work in many different areas using all the skills they have.
I get that, but this idea is totally misguided when it comes to niching your business. Again, this fear is based on the premise that your business is somehow going to encompass what your life is all about. But when you have a successful, profitable business, nothing could be farther from the truth!
Niche and Limited Are Two Different Things I truly understand the desire not to feel limited in your business because I am both a life-long learner and someone who is always most motivated when embarking on a NEW project. And here’s what I want to share about my own experience:
Before I got super clear on a focused market, voice, and offering, I was working all the time.
Notable clients that I remember working with at the same time were a candy company, an artist’s open-air market in Manhattan, NYU Stern School of Business, and a corporate janitorial company. A nice, interesting mix, right? Except that was ALL we were doing, all day every day. I had variety in my business, but none in my life.
Fast forward to gaining clarity and focus on a niche, which played a key role in building a successful and profitable business, and I had lots of time (and money!) available to do other things. Some of those things were business-related, like writing my book, building my courses, and building my speaking career.
Other things had nothing to do with business: I road tripped around Europe. I took up singing lessons. I took a stand-up comedy class. I had a baby. I even sewed stuffed animals for that baby! Those are all things I couldn’t do when I was working in my jack-of-all-trades business which didn’t afford me any free time.
But you know what else?
Even though my business was now focused on a clear niche, the work didn’t get boring. Quite the opposite—it got more interesting.
First, we niched down in our brand voice, which was quite clutch-my-pearls sassy for the business world at the time. Then, we niched down our offerings into our now-famous Brandup process where we only build brands in 1-3 day intensives. That was enough—we were flooded with clients just focusing on those two areas, but a year later, we decided to niche even more and focused only on 1-3 person service businesses.
By only working with these small service businesses, I have been able to become an unofficial researcher of the small service industry in general. Over the years, I’ve seen clear patterns and common problems and solutions that span all industries—as long as they are 1-3 person service businesses. This has been fascinating! The challenge of building a unique and interesting brand for every single client while applying these strategies has enabled me to be an expert in my field MUCH faster than if I had stayed on the “creative branding” path like so many creatives choose to do.
The Right Niche Starts with the Right Approach
Are you on board with the WHAT and WHY? Now let’s figure out the HOW.
Here’s what you SHOULDN’T do: Look at your business and then pick one thing you do and then just say, “Now I’m ONLY going to do that.”
This is not niching. This IS just limiting what you do. And if this is your past experience with niching, then it’s not surprising that you failed. Niching the right way is about focusing your entire business and every facet of it so that you are seen as an expert for your exact clientele. When you’ve successfully niched, your target client should look at your website, read your content, or just speak to you, and they should be jumping for joy that they found you. (As one student recently emailed me “I just received this email message.... ‘I've reviewed your website and it’s exactly what I'm looking for.’” That’s what we’re looking for every single time an ideal client interacts with you!)
The beautiful thing about niching is that it actually makes everything you do in business infinitely easier. Writing your website copy, your elevator pitch, a social media post, or an article becomes simple and clear because now, you have a clear goal, message, and target audience. If you’ve ever sat down to write a blog article and ended up pumping out some generic dribble, I promise you it’s at least partially because you have no clarity around your niche.
So, don’t think about niching as limiting yourself. While other businesses who are doing it wrong are certainly closing off opportunities, niching the right way is actually expanding your opportunities in all aspects of your business!
I’ve found it starts with a deep level of inquiry. Like every good sales process, you have to ask yourself the right questions that are going to get to the heart of what you really need. What do you do best? How do you do it best? Where do you provide the most value? What will people be willing to pay?
To truly find your powerful niche takes digging deeper than you might otherwise go. It’s a process I put all my clients through in my Brandshrink and you can download some of my best questions in my Minishrink here.
Pia Silva I am a partner and brand strategist at Worstofall Design where we build brands that turn expertise into profit. Unlike most branding firms, we build entire brands in days